RICHLAND — It was difficult to tell Tuesday whether this season's Richland baseball club bears a resemblance to last year's, which put together a terrific run heading into the postseason and finished second at state.
Many of the names are the same, but the Bombers' play in a 4-1 win over a struggling Wenatchee team at Bomber Field didn't inspire visions of championships.
Three times the Panthers lay down bunts, and all three times the Bombers booted the play. They had as many errors (4) as hits in the game and, if not for one shining defensive play and a sterling outing by Kenton Brunson, likely would have been staring a third straight loss right in the eye.
Instead, Richland pulled out the win and went on to win the nightcap in spectacular fashion, 13-3 on Jarrod Turner's walkoff grand slam for the 10-run margin in the sixth inning.
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But even in that second game, Richland waited until the end to wake up the offense, scratching out half of their 10 hits in the last two innings.
"We just weren't sharp," said Bombers coach Ben Jacobs.
Richland (8-2) closes out the regular season with a key doubleheader at home Friday against Davis (6-4), which was swept by first-place Walla Walla 6-5 and 5-2.
The Bombers need to win just one game Friday to lock up second place and earn a bye in the first round of the district tournament.
"I expect us to play better," Jacobs said. "It's just about tournament time, and I expect Richland kids -- everyone expects Richland to play better."
Jacobs did give some love to the pitching, which struck out 21 Panthers in two games. Connor Moore and Syd Hall combined on a seven-hit effort in the second game. Mason Hilty also homered in the sixth in front of Turner's bomb.
The Bombers didn't have much luck against Wenatchee's Game 1 starter, Dustin Driver. The hard-throwing sophomore gave up just four singles, walking three and striking out eight. But his defense behind him proved his undoing.
Turner reached on a two-base throwing error with one out in the second, and Cody Poznanski singled through the hole on the right side to drive him in. Poznanski then stole second and third, coming home when the catcher's throw to third sailed into left field.
That little bit of offense had to hold up until the fifth, when Corey Morris flared a ball the other way into right field to score Moore, who walked to lead off the inning and stole second.
A hit batter and another error -- also Wenatchee's fourth fielding miscue of the game -- loaded the bases, and Brunson jumped on the first pitch he saw for a sacrifice fly to left.
That was plenty of support for Brunson, who struck out nine and walked two in 6 1/3 innings, giving way for Zach Rapacz to close out the final two outs for the save.
Brunson was solid all day, mixing speeds and location. But his best weapon was his curve, which he got over for strikes and used to keep Wenatchee's hitters guessing.
"My curveball was working today, and I was working off that," said Brunson, admitting he often tends to try to throw it by batters instead of fooling them.
The one inning he ran into trouble was in the third, which started innocently enough with a booted routine grounder and flared up with a pair of botched bunts, the second scoring a runner.
Brunson stuck out the next batter for the first out, then issued his first walk to load the bases. Wenatchee cleanup hitter Christian Silva stepped to the plate and hit a grounder down the first-base line.
Poznanski fielded the ball and fired home to Turner, who shot it back up the line to Morris coming over from second for the 3-2-4 double play to end the threat.
Wenatchee 001 000 0 — 1 4 4
Richland 020 020 x — 4 4 4
Dustin Driver and Nolan Johnston; Kenton Brunson, Zach Rapacz (7) and Jarrod Turner.
Highlights—Colby Adamek (W) 2B; Driver (W) 6IP-4H-2ER-3BB-8K; Cody Poznanski (R) 1x3, RBI, 2 SB; Brunson (R) 6 1/3 IP-4H-1ER-2BB-9K.
Wenatchee 002 100 — 3 7 1
Richland 014 017 — 13 10 1
CJ Gettman, Mooney (6) and Johnston; Connor Moore, Syd Hall (4) and Turner.
Highlights—Josh Coppock (W) 2B; Corey Morris (R) 2x4; Dillan Klute (R) 2B; Brunson (R) 2 RBI; Turner (R) 3x4, 2B, GS HR; Poznanski (R) 2x2, 2B; Mason Hilty (R) HR.